Last week, a family in rural Kentucky became a cause c?l?bre on the fringe after authorities seized their 10 children. The family claims the kids were taken away because they lived “off-the-grid” and homeschooled their kids. But new details have come out that suggest the real reason for the seizure is that the kids were living in conditions so squalid that they amounted to child abuse and child neglect.
Late last week, I happened to see a story flash on my Facebook feed about Joe and Nicole Naugler, who live on a 26-acre spread in Breckinridge County, an hour southwest of Louisville. Last Thursday, sheriff’s deputies descended on the Naugler spread as part of a child protection investigation. Two of the children were taken into state custody, while the other eight were surrendered later that day.
The Nauglers claimed that their kids were taken away because of objections to their off-the-grid lifestyle and the manner they homeschooled their kids. They said that they opted to “unschool” their kids in the manner that all kids learned before public education took root. Instead, the kids learned through playing and helping tend the farm, among other things. They would be well within their rights to do this on paper. Kentucky law gives broad latitude for kids to be homeschooled, even unschooled. But considering that I initially learned about this via a site that is chock full of conspiracy theory hokum, something told me there was something more to this than a bunch of jackbooted gubmint thugs oppressing good Christians. Well, turns out there’s a lot more.
According to WAVE in Louisville, the Nauglers don’t have any running water. Instead, they rely on tapping into heir neighbors’ wells or municipal hookups. On May 3, a neighbor caught Joe and one of his sons trying to get water from her well and tried to run them off. Joe–who has past arrests for passing rubber checks and driving without registration or insurance–then told his son to get a gun from the glove compartment of their car. That would have been unnerving by itself, but the neighbor also recalled that Joe was cursing at her and “acting very erratically.” She was concerned enough to call the sheriff.
According to a copy of the original complaint on the Nauglers’ Facebook page, deputies went to the Naugler spread the next day and found it laden with garbage, broken glass, and nails. The Nauglers told the deputies that the only way they were going to talk with the children was with a search warrant. Deputies obliged the next day, but Nicole Naugler refused to cooperate. According to audio of the incident uploaded at a site the Nauglers set up for their supporters, Nicole Naugler dared deputies to shoot her, and wouldn’t rule out using weapons against them.
As of Monday night, a GoFundMe campaign has raised over $40,000 to cover the Nauglers’ legal expenses. But those who have chipped in so far might want to ask for refunds after seeing pictures the Nauglers themselves posted of their homestead. The Nauglers’ main house is a three-or-four walled shack. The pictures show only three walls, but they claim to have added a fourth over the winter. From the looks of it, even if it had four walls, this wouldn’t even begin to be suitable for one child, let alone 10 (with an 11th on the way).
Gary, a former homeschooler who lived off-the-grid for his entire childhood, took a peek at the Nauglers’ Facebook page after the story broke and wrote up his findings for Homeschoolers Anonymous. He noticed the spread was coated “inches deep in mud” that he believes “with absolute mathematical certainty” to be mostly animal waste–a sharp contrast to how he was raised, in “a real house” with an outhouse and the animals fenced off. Gary thinks that the Nauglers’ living conditions are “the worst I have ever seen”–so bad that they are “for all practical purposes, homeless.” After taking a look at these pictures myself, I have to agree with Gary. These people don’t deserve our sympathy at all.
The Nauglers spent most of Monday in a hearing to get their kids back. Their supporters have also started a hashtag campaign, “#Kentucky10.” But after seeing the pictures of their homestead, there is no way these two should be allowed within an area code of any child again. If forcing children to live in these conditions isn’t child abuse or child neglect, I don’t know what is.